We all have those moments when we see signs of the End of Civilization. But correcting myself at the outset, not all of us — it’s only people of a certain age who see signs and portents of the E of C. For the most part, young people don’t care, which proves again that wisdom doesn’t come with age.
Nevertheless, near the anniversary of the day we decided to break from British civilization, disturbing signs are everywhere that the barbarians are not just at the gates, but are manning the tollbooths.
The template for the E of C is Rome, but most people don’t have the facts right about why the mighty Romans fell. It didn’t really have much to do with party habits; you know, sex, drinking and violence, as in orgies, incest, vomitoriums, gladiators, etc. Most historians agree the collapse had more to do with fighting wars of dubious merit far from the capital, abysmal economic management and refusing to recognize environmental disasters such as lead in drinking water.
Are you feeling a disturbing sense of familiarity?
But not to worry, the fall of Rome took about 400 years of willful ignorance to dire circumstances staring citizens in the face. We’ve got time to kick back, grab a cold one and watch steroid-juiced pugs beat the bejesus out of each other in Ultimate Fighting matches.
Here are eight E of C signs directing us down the road to ultimate catastrophe:
These are the plastic and sometimes metal testicles swinging from the back bumpers of pickup trucks you see occasionally on Long Island roads.
They come in all colors, including pink, blue (for married men, says one ad) and even camouflage. Some guys displaying these truck accessories are half-wits with a sense of humor on the order of chimpanzees. I first thought the rest of the men who aren’t joking, but proudly sending grim messages to fellow drivers on public roads and streets, should be shot out of hand. Then I realized they should be pitied for the naked insecurity about their masculinity they insist on shouting to the world.
Like a bewildered parent, I’m not angry, I’m just … disappointed.
2. Video reviews of disputed plays by umpires
This is truly, as Jim Morrison wrote, “The end/ Of our elaborate plans, the end/ Of everything that stands, the end,/ No safety or surprise, the end …”
First the designated hitter, now this. Where will it … you know.
3. The Republican Party
What to say about a party that doesn’t merely dislike the president of the other party, but actively despises him? We’ve had a Republican congressman shouting in a joint session of Congress that he’s a liar, a Republican governor in full view of the world waving a finger in his face, berating the president in a tirade that her fellow Republicans applauded.
It’s not just that they protest his policies, they don’t believe his presidency is legitimate. You know, he’s not quite an American, and the party wants their country back. A startling number of Republican voters still believe the president was born in Indonesia or Kenya or on the moon. Some elected Republicans reply with condescension when asked about the president’s nationality: “I’ll take him at his word.”
It also seems the Grand Old Party doesn’t believe in our institutions. Consider the Speaker of the House, who, after legislation was passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the president and deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court, said the law must be torn out “root and branch.”
4. The Democratic Party
For bringing peashooters to a bazooka fight. And leader of the New York Dems, Governor Andrew Cuomo — have you caught his act? He’s the teacher you loved to hate, with that hectoring, drive-you-mad style. Take a speech lesson, please, Guv. And try your best to get over yourself.
5. Adam Sandler
6. Citizen journalists
This designation means people who have not been trained in the profession but report news by responding to online journalism or blog or tweet about events. I’m speaking about people in stained bathrobes in basements polluting information streams with suspect agendas and even more suspect facts.
Would you have that flooded basement looked at by a citizen plumber?
My friend David, who is as eloquent as he is cranky, wrote recently of a similar sign of the E of C that he’s detected: “The celebration of common sense over book learnin’. Common sense didn’t develop penicillin or the interstate highway system or the moon landing. Being labeled a ‘professional’ politician is the kiss of death but I want professionals running the government … and working on my teeth and doing my taxes.”
7. Those poor souls who dress in 18th century costumes to protest the death of freedom in America
Calm down. Cut back on the caffeine.
8. Old dudes going on and on about the End of Civilization
Ambrose Clancy is editor of the Shelter Island Reporter. He can be reached at 631-749-1000, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.